More than three decades after a California 9-year-old was abducted from a shopping center parking lot, authorities have charged a suspect with a disturbing history of violence with her murder.
David Emery Misch is now facing murder charges connected to the Nov. 19, 1988 disappearance of Michaela Garecht, who was abducted after going to a local market with a friend to buy candy and soda.
“The disappearance of Michaela Garecht is a tragic story that has gripped the Bay Area for decades,” Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin said in a press conference announcing the charges.
Misch has a disturbing history of violence. He is currently in prison for the 1989 murder of 36-year-old Brenda Ball and is also facing charges in Alameda County for the 1986 double homicide of best friends Michelle Xavier and Jennifer Duey, according to a statement from Freemont Police.
Hayward Police Det. Robert Purnell said during the press conference Monday that authorities were able to connect him to Garecht’s murder after Freemont Police reached out to the department during their investigation and suggested they might want to look into Misch, who had “a number of connections” to the Hayward area.
“We certainly did and it led us to where we are today,” Purnell said.
Chaplin said authorities were able to use a “partial palm print” found in Garecht’s case and evidence from the Freemont investigation to connect him to the kidnapping.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said Garecht disappeared just before Thanksgiving in 1988.
“She and her friend rode to the local market to get some candy and sodas about 10:15 a.m. in the morning,” O’Malley said during the press conference. “They were just kids, carefree, certainly unsuspecting of the danger that lay ahead.”
But authorities believe Misch’s intentions were more calculated. O’Malley described the crime as “so brazen, so ruthless, but clearly planned.”
Garecht’s kidnapper had taken one of the girls’ scooters and moved it away from the store to a back area of the parking lot, according to O’Malley.
“He did so to isolate and be able to grab Michaela when she came to pick up that scooter,” she said. “She has never been heard from or seen again.”
The kidnapping sent shockwaves through the community.
Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons told Oxygen.com that she was 16 years old when Garecht disappeared, but she still remembers its impact on the Bay Area.
“It was a really scary time,” she said of growing up in the community.
Gibbons researched Garecht’s case as part of a memoir she’s writing on another unrelated 1980 kidnapping in the area.
Garecht’s kidnapping also shattered her grieving family.
“Michaela’s kidnapping devastated her family, paralyzed them with grief, and terrorized them with the unknowing of what happed to Michaela,” O’Malley said. “Their pain was and remains indescribable.”
Investigators, including Hayward Police detectives and the FBI, continued to work the case for years, hunting down possible leads and potential suspects. But they were never able to identify the suspected killer until this year.
“The FBI and our partners have a long memory,” Special Agent-In-Charge Craig Fair said during the Monday press conference. “We have actively pursued leads in this case since 1988 and we have never forgotten Michaela or moved on from her disappearance. Crimes that involve children terrorize our community, strike fear in families, and are one of the FBI’s top priorities.”
In a powerful statement read by Chaplin Sharon Murch thanked the investigators for their tireless efforts in the “long, long journey” to finding her daughter’s killer.
“I know that as you hear this news your hearts are breaking along with mine,” she wrote. “In the last year, I’ve had to come to a place of accepting that Michaela was probably no longer alive, but somehow that acceptance was far more wrapped up in the idea of Michaela sitting on a fluffy, pink cloud, walking streets of gold, dancing on grass hills, soaring among the stars. What I did not envision was my daughter as a dead child.”
Murch said that when she learned Misch had been identified as the killer, it has forced her to face a much darker reality.
“A chill set in that had nothing to do with the snow outside my home in southwest Iowa. I feel as though I am looking for Michaela, but know I don’t know where,” she said. “I honestly feel lost in the dark.”
Authorities have never discovered the young girl’s remains. Murch said she urged Purnell to share details of his other alleged crimes to learn more about “what method this man used to kill his victims,” but acknowledged the answers were not easy to hear.
“When I doubted whether or not I would want to know, it always came back to if Michaela could experience it, I could hear it because it’s not about me. It’s never been about me, about my feelings, it has always been about Michaela. What I have been through is nothing. What I feel is not important. It’s only about Michaela,” she said. “The thoughts of her fear, her pain, her grief are overwhelming, yet as I told our detective, I am glad that the kidnapper has been identified, I am glad that there are answers. I am glad that this man will never be able to hurt anyone else.”
Authorities believe that more than three years before Garecht disappeared he also killed best friends Xavier, 18, and Duey, 20. The women’s bodies were found along the side of Mill Creek Road just after midnight on February 2, 1986, according to the Freemont Police Department.
Both women had been shot and stabbed to death hours earlier.
The pair had been at a family birthday dinner earlier that night and were last seen together around 8 p.m. at a local convenience store. Xavier’s Pontiac Sunbird was found parked about six miles away from where the bodies were discovered. The women’s personal belongings, including their identification and purses, were never found, police said.
For years, the case went cold. But it was re-examined in 2016 after Detective Jacob Blass had been tasked with focusing on open cold cases. Blass was able to find several pieces of evidence containing DNA evidence that police said helped them identify Misch as their suspect in the murders.
“Misch lived in the area at the time and was a known commercial burglar and drug user,” police said in their 2018 statement announcing his suspected link to the crime. “We do not believe the women had any history or contact with Misch prior to the incident.”
Misch is currently in prison for the 1989 death of 36-year-old Margaret Ball, who was found stabbed to death in her home in unincorporated Hayward, local station KPIX reports.
He was in custody at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin when the latest charges against him were filed.
Murch asked that people continue to remember her daughter’s spirit, even though the suspected killer has finally been identified.
“I ask that you please don’t forget her now,” she said in the statement. “She is no longer a case, but she is what she’s always been and that is a bright and shining light and in her absence from this earth, it is up to us to carry her life forward.”
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